Monday, March 16, 2020

1916 Turkestan Revolt ‘Prototype’ for Color Revolutions of Today, Three Kyrgyz Scholars Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 11 – The first “color revolution” orchestrated by foreign powers against Russia took place even before the Bolshevik revolution when German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish agents helped organize the 1916 revolt in Turkestan against tsarist orders that Central Asians would be drafted to serve in support capacities in the Russian war effort.

            That argument is advanced by three Kyrgyz scholars, Dosmir Uzbekov, Marat Suyubayev, and Kulnara Koybagarov, in an extensive and heavily documented essay in the current issue of Moscow’s Novoye voyennoye obozreniye (

            Most of what they write has long been known to Western scholars. (For a useful introduction to this complicated event, see Edward Dennis Sokol, The Revolt of 1916 in Russian Central Asia (Washington, 2016).)  The real question is why have three Kyrgyz scholars made this argument now.

            There are three obvious reasons. First, most people in Central Asia view those who revolted in 1916 as national heroes. Linking them as this article does to the actions of foreign intelligence services undercuts that narrative (

            Second, in the Putin era, Moscow and its allies in the former Soviet republics are convinced that the people do not act unless they are organized and led by elites, good or bad. Blaming the German and Turkish intelligence services reinforces that view of Central Asians, suggesting that the Turkestanis couldn’t have possibly acted on their own.

            And third, choosing to emphasize this aspect of 1916 plays into an even more important Kremlin narrative, the notion that Russia has always been surrounded by enemies and that they will use various nefarious means to undermine Russian power and that what has been happening recently is only the latest chapter in a very old story.

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